Challenge Event 2021
On 22-25 June 2021, students and staff from the Water-WISER CDT gathered at Cranfield University for our first in-person event since the pandemic began.
The ‘Challenge Event’ normally focuses on activities designed to give students skills in problem-solving, team working and networking, in a variety of outdoor settings. The annual event brings together the full cohort of students from each university – Leeds, Loughborough, Cranfield.
For this event the challenge was to develop a session for the international WEDC Conference where the Water-WISER CDT has been invited to promote its work. However, it soon became apparent that the main value of the event was simply to allow CDT researchers to interact as human beings after more than a year stuck online. Students who had been struggling to make progress while remote working received a big boost to their confidence, and all reported on the value of being able to meet CDT academics from each university informally over meals and while moving around the campus to go on tours.
The team visited the site of ancient Flitwick Mill (receiving an impromptu open-air lecture from the miller); and investigated the catchment of the ‘mighty’ Flit, including the beautiful Flitwick Moor SSSI. CDT researchers were also given a tour of the Cranfield Pilot Hall and water treatment facilities, including viewing the current experimental work of the CDT researchers who are based at Cranfield. Delegates also enjoyed a DIY barbecue at a local Girl Guides venue (a hut in the woods), and a typical English picnic (cloudy, drizzly, somewhat bracing).
The event was by no means easy to organise, so thanks go to the Senior Management team at Cranfield for accommodating the group, and to the Health & Safety teams at each University who helped advise on COVID-19 safety.
March 2021: Congratulations to Hannah Ritchie! Hannah is our first Water-WISER CDT student to submit a paper (within her second year of study on the CDT programme). Hannah’s paper “Sand dams as a potential solution to rural water security in drylands: Existing research and future opportunities” will be published in the Journal Frontiers in Water, section Water and Climate. Hannah is currently on a prestigious internship at the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA) working on water resource issues.
Water-WISER CDT activities during the COVID pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic occurred halfway through the first year of the CDT, so this prevented in-person events and activities from going ahead. However, the network of staff and students has been working effectively online and the following activities took place:
- Research Skills Week April 2020 – an extensive programme of advanced skills training
- Summer Skills Workshops 2020 – a bespoke series of workshops developed in response to the COVID lockdown by the CDT academic team
- Inductions for new students Sept 2020
- Research Skills Week Jan 2021
- Summer Skills Workshops 2021
We are hoping to hold our first in-person ‘Challenge Event’ in more than a year, in June 2021, at Cranfield University campus and local area, including team-building problem-solving activities and research presentations. Crossing fingers that it goes ahead!
Challenge Week 2020
The Water-WISER CDT Challenge Week 2020 took place in Youlgreave in the Peak District, 7-10 January 2020, involving all Water-WISER CDT students, aligned PhD students, the Water-WISER CDT academic management team and a selection of industry representatives and experts.
This annual event is designed as a cohort-building activity for the CDT students, as well as a networking experience. Students had to orient themselves in the landscape and use the topography as data for a fictional scenario involving designing sanitation services for a community. Anne Blenkinsopp, CDT co-Director, has extensive knowledge of the local area and was able to call upon contacts within the community to brief students on aspects of history, hydrogeology, biodiversity and local industry.
Youlgreave is remarkable for having its own water company, one of the few such communities in the UK, and is thus an interesting case study. In addition, the limestone karst landscape has many features of interest, including spectacular rock outcrops, mineshafts and crystal clear rivers full of life. Severn Trent Water staff kindly arranged visits to Carsington Water (a reservoir and local beauty spot) and Hulland Ward treatment site, one of the first Vertical Flow Reedbed sewage treatment sites to be commissioned in the UK – an innovative, low energy, low maintenance nature-based solution to sewage treatment for rural communities (which make up a large proportion of Severn Trent Water’s network).
After touring the area and sites, students had to present to a panel of experts, for feedback and comment on their ideas. They also had to present on the progress of their PhD project idea development, to enable the CDT management team and experts to offer advice and guidance at this early stage (the students started the programme in September 2019 and this was their first progress milestone).